Had I been leading him on? Encouraging him in some way? I wracked my brain, trying to remember every conversation, every word we’d ever uttered. Seemed to me I was just being myself, playfully laughing and joking around with James and Sam. We were practically the Three Musketeers of Geometry! Doing our homework together, studying together. And, it was always the three of us, not two. Three!
So, why was I feeling anything? Why did I care so much? We were friends! And yet…
And yet, I was in love with Jake. With all my heart. Which is why “Operation Don’t Talk to James” was put into effect right away. Of course, it was impossible to not speak to James at all. We were still classmates and that wasn’t about to change any time soon. But, I did everything possible not to encourage conversation beyond class-related stuff. I wouldn’t look at him, even when he spoke, and even when I replied.
And, if that wasn’t going to work, there was always Plan B. The cooling-off period. With spring break just a few days away, it seemed almost a relief to know I wouldn’t be seeing him for an entire week, which would provide plenty of time to put this in perspective.
Sigh. An entire week of not seeing James seemed almost like a lifetime! Worst, I wouldn’t be seeing Jake either, as my family was definitely going to D.C. for the week and there was absolutely no way to get out of it. I was so mad.
It didn’t take James long to figure out something was amiss. On the Friday before vacation, as I left class, he caught up with me, beckoning me to follow him outside the school. Reluctantly, I did.
We walked down a slope toward the back of the school. In the distance, a girls’ field hockey game was underway. James’ face leaned into mine.
“Bubbles,” he said almost tenderly, like a guy who is trying to make amends with his girlfriend, “Did I do something wrong? You seem mad at me and I want to know why.”
I hesitated. I could like this boy, I really could. If only things were different. I could feel myself caving, giving into his strength of character, his goodness. But Jake, coupled with James’ age, pulled me back. Why did James have to be so nice? Why did I enjoy his company so much? It was all too confounding to think about.
“James,” I finally asked, “Is it true? Do you like me?”
James raised an eyebrow and looked at me quizzically. “Is this a trick question?”
“No, I’m serious. I need to know how you feel.”
“Well, yes. I like you very much, Bubbles. I love your smile and, well, you make me feel good.” He gave a half smile.
So, now it was out there. The attraction between us, alive and kicking. No one could deny. Yet, this wasn’t supposed to be like this. Sure, it felt good to hear, but all it did was confuse the issue, blur the lines, and make me feel all kinds of crazy inside. I was at a crossroads. I could’ve flung my arms around him or rejected him out flat. I chose the latter.
“You’ve got to stop this, James. And, you need to stop calling me Bubbles, do you understand? I already have a boyfriend, and you’re just in 10th grade, James. A kid! That’s what you are, don’t you get it? THIS ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN!”
I was ablaze in anger and frustration, but the real source of my rage was not James. It was me. I had somehow turned myself into a petulant, churlish child, unable to express myself in any other way than through an emotional meltdown. And, I had taken it out on James. If I had venom in me, I would be spitting it about now. I hated that he was seeing me like this and so, before either of us said another word, I quickly turned and ran back to the school.
Jake came over that night, after I’d finished packing for the trip. I wanted him to hold me and tell me it was going to be okay, but he didn’t know any of what transpired between me and James, and I wasn’t about to tell him. Nobody knew and I wanted to keep it that way.
I was too mortified that I had encouraged this young boy, that we had come this far so quickly, and that I’d acted like a maniac in front of him. I cared for him and worried that I may ruined our friendship for good.
I turned to Jake. Was it me or was he still being a bit distant? Certainly, he could see what mood I was in, couldn’t he? Yet, he asked me nothing about my day. I couldn’t pinpoint what was different but I had other problems to occupy my mind, so I decided not to give it further thought. It was troubling, though, that I couldn’t remember the last time he wrote me a romantic note or love poem.
When it was time for Jake to go, I held him tight, letting him know I was going to miss him everyday and every night. Then, I gave him something personal of mine to hold on to while I was away. I gave him a ring I’d wear most every day, that had been a gift from my parents for my Quinceñera when I was living in Venezuela.
Jake kissed me on the cheek, and said we’d see each other again soon. One week is a short time, after all. Still, I got teary as he left, and told him I’d call him the moment we returned.
How long one week can seem when you’re young and in love, and resenting your parents for separating you from the object of your devotion. It is the pain of teen angst and insecurity, and all you want to do is rush time. Make it go faster. Hurry for I can’t wait to see Jake again. Seven days felt like, from here to eternity.
I don’t remember anything about the trip except for one thing: I wanted it to be over. I needed to go home. Home is where the heart is, after all. I had to see Jake and the week seemed like it would never end.
And, then the trip was over and we were home at last. I practically jumped out of the car and dialed Jake’s number. I couldn’t wait to hear his voice again. That’s all I wanted after seven days with nary a word. And, when he picked up the phone, my heart was elated.
“Oh good you’re back,” he said rather somberly. “There’s something I need to tell you. I’ve been seeing someone else for a few weeks now, and she’s very special to me. I know this is probably upsetting to hear, but you should know I waited for your vacation to be over before telling you, because I didn’t want to spoil it for you.”
Then, almost as an after thought, he added, “Let me know a good time to stop by so I can return your ring.”
(To be continued.)
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